The Importance of Incentives for Surveys

Carrying out a survey is a good way of finding out public opinion. Whenever we see an advertisement on the television, a company will often use in their broadcast certain statistics which have been arrived at through carrying out surveys. The strength of public opinion is of incredible importance to everyone – to public or private companies, to political organisations and to anyone who believes that a groundswell of opinion means something. However, there are occasionally problems when surveys are carried out, because they do not always get treated seriously by the people giving answers.

It is perhaps useful to give an example of this. If you are asked, randomly, to answer a question by someone who gives you no reason to really think about it, then you will be more likely to spend less time giving it consideration. If someone hands a petition to someone who does not believe in the cause for the petition, and insists that they sign it because they are obliged to, it is not uncommon for someone to sign their name as “Mickey Mouse” or any other joke name. If you give someone a reason to do something – however selfish it is – they are more likely to do it, and do it right too.

So, the reason for doing a survey in the first place is to find out what people think, and the reason for incentivising it in this way is so you can be sure what they say really is what they think. It is based in people’s tendency to react better to an incentive than an obligation – and it works.